The negotiated contract?: An ethnography of adolescent reading and ideology
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 17:38 authored by Michael Couani
The Negotiated Contract? An Ethnography of Adolescent Reading and Ideology investigates an intensely theorized and debated yet often elusive area of culture: adolescent reading. This thesis investigates adolescents’ attitudes towards the books they read, how they use those books and the nature of their reading performances. Ideology is fundamental to this understanding of young people’s book culture. This thesis argues that adolescent reading is a site of ideological negotiation that is fundamentally ambivalent, a site where young adult readers are neither ideological dupes, nor autonomous actors. Through interviews conducted with twenty teenage girls in a comprehensive Catholic girls’ high school in Sydney, Australia, this thesis examines three main aspects of this ideological dimension of reading: ideology and taste; ideology and meaning; and ideology and institutions. This thesis demonstrates that reading tastes in popular book series such as Twilight, Vampire Academy and Harry Potter are utilized by teenagers as part of a performance of ideologies of gender, sexuality and as a conduit for subcultural capital whereby they define themselves against an ideologically constructed mainstream. Textual meaning in these series is identified as a site of ideological struggle in which teenagers demonstrate that they read in highly complex, idiosyncratic, yet distinctively ideological ways. Finally, institutions such as school, Church and family also shape this ideological dimension of adolescent reading. In all of these areas, adolescent reading is a domain where ideological negotiations are messy, inconsistent and fundamentally ambivalent.